In the early to mid 80s, when most of the popular music world was fascinated with synthesizers, MTV, and feathered hair, a small community of musicians in Southern California were forming their own movement influenced by the jangle pop and psychedelia of 60s bands such as The Byrds and Love, and the garage rock of bands like The Count Five and The Seeds. Known as the Paisley Underground, the movement included such diverse groups as The Three O’Clock, Green On Red, Rain Parade, and The Bangles. One of the best-known bands in the genre, The Dream Syndicate, released their debut album The Days of Wine and Roses in 1982, and though it didn’t manage to break into MTV, it quickly became an underground favorite. The band released three more albums before splitting in 1989, and bandleader Steve Wynn went on to start a prolific solo career.
Flash forward to 2012, when Wynn reformed the band to perform at a festival in Barcelona. With a line-up consisting of original drummer Dennis Duck, bassist Mark Walton (who joined the band originally in 1984), and guitarist Jason Victor (who had been a member of Wynn’s sometimes backing band The Miracle Three for several years), the reunion was a big success, and The Dream Syndicate continued, sporadically playing shows amongst Wynn’s busy schedule as a solo artist and a member of The Baseball Project, and working on an album of new material – their first in 28 years. The album is due out in September, but this past weekend the band made a stop at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia (their first shows in the city in three decades), to play a short set at the NON-COMM non-commercial radio industry festival on Friday, followed by a full headlining set on Saturday.
The band drew the majority of their setlist from The Days of Wine and Roses and their second album, 1984’s Medicine Show. Opening with one of their best-known tracks from the first album, “Halloween,” they launched into a high-energy set that never let up from beginning to end. With highlights including “Definitely Clean,” “Tell Me When It’s Over,” and “When You Smile” from the first album, and “Bullet With My Name On It,” “The Medicine Show,” and “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” from the second, it was a set list sure to make most fans happy. Only one track from the later releases, “Forest For the Trees” from 1986’s Out of the Grey made an appearance. But most notably, the band included three new songs – “Filter Me Through You,” “Glide,” and “Out of My Head” – from the upcoming release. The band ended the show with a two-song encore, playing “Merritville” and “The Days of Wind and Roses.”
After the new album comes out, the band intends to do more intensive touring around it, likely in the late fall according to Wynn. When they do come to town, it’ll be a show not to be missed.
Philadelphia art/jam-rockers Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band opened the evening. The group released their most recent album, The Rarity of Experience, back in March.